curtailing normal forms of social intercourse (shopping, pedestrian traffic), might not such reputations cause or prolong the problems they imply?
Although the focus of this paper has been on fear of victimization among the general public, it would be of interest to examine fear within special populations, such as prison populations; those in mental institutions; or active, violent offenders in the free world. Such data are generally unavailable, with one notable exception. In a multistate survey of imprisoned felons, Wright and Rossi (1986:138) found that the reasons given by felons for purchasing and carrying firearms had less to do with committing crimes than with protecting themselves from the dangerous persons who inhabit their everyday world.
All the evidence we have assembled, therefore, points to the same conclusion, namely, that gun criminals carried guns at least as much to protect themselves against the uncertainties of their environment as to prey upon the larger population. That these men inhabit a violent and hostile world is easy to demonstrate. Over 70% of them had been involved in assaults; over 50% had gotten into bar fights; about 40% had been stabbed with a knife; 52% reported having been shot at with a gun. …
Even when it came to committing crimes, felons reported that a principal purpose of using a firearm was to protect themselves from injury by victims. Judging from Wright and Rossi's work, then, fear of victimization is not limited to the law-abiding segment of the population and, in a strangely ironic twist, may actually be more common or intense among those who employ violence as an occupational tool.
As noted at the outset of this paper, one form of fear that merits special attention is fear for others, or what might be called altruistic (as opposed to egoistic, or personal) fear. Perhaps no aspect of fear deserves more immediate attention than altruistic fear. One reason is that many of the behaviors that investigators commonly construe to be self-protective may in fact be primarily intended to protect others. Home security precautions are an obvious example (as is participation in neighborhood programs), but virtually any avoidance or precautionary behavior may have the intent or effect of protecting significant others. Another reason, noted earlier, is that the consequences of altruistic fear may be quite distinct from those of egoistic fear. The latter, after all, encompasses but a single individual, whereas altruistic fear may extend to a substantial number of persons and, consequently, may provoke more determined and perhaps more extreme safety precautions.